Multi-day Hikes on the Mi’gmaq Trail - A Guide
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Introduction: The Mi’gmaq Trail offers some of the most scenic and diverse terrain in eastern North America. Beginning at a pristine lake near the base of Mt. Carleton, the Maritime’s highest peak, the Trail largely follows the Nepisiquit River on its 150 kilometer journey to the seaside municipality of Bathurst. It is remote. It is wild. It is an exquisite opportunity to commute with nature. It is also physically and mentally demanding and potentially hazardous. This document is a guide for those planning a multi-day hike on the Trail. It will help make your adventure a safe and enjoyable one but be aware, hikers on the Mi’gmaq Trail do so at their own risk. Great hiking everyone!
State of the Trail (as of Oct 1, 2018): The Mi’gmaq Trail officially opened on August 23, 2018. It is identified mostly with blue flagging tape. About 80% of the Trail has also been signed with distinct turtle markers on clear 10 cm x 13 cm acrylic (see adjoining photo). Similar sized turtle signs (ie.10 cm x 13 cm) on a white background are used on Access Paths. Where Access Paths join the Mi’gmaq Trail, hikers will see large 20 cm x 25 cm Access Point signs inscribed with a letter and turtle on a white background. See section below, “Access Points and Paths” for more information.
Other signs identifying key locations, kilometer postings, camp sites, etc are in place but only for the 50 km section closest to Bathurst.
Tip for following the trail: Regularly monitor your position on the Trail with a map, compass and GPS. When you arrive at intersections, diverging roads, sharp turns or areas with intersecting flagged trails (unfortunately flagging tapes are also used by prospectors, surveyors, etc), take the extra time to look for the next turtle sign in order to take the proper trail. If you don’t see turtle signs, you can turn and look back to see if signs have been posted in the opposite direction (some sections of the trail have yet to be signed in both directions).
Hiking Times 6 to 12 days: To complete the entire Mi’gmaq Trail (150 Km) hiking times can vary between 6 (25 km/d) and 12 (12.5 km/d) days depending on the weather, trail conditions and one’s individual ability. Plan for delays and allocate extra time. Note as well, the Trail crosses several roads but there are no towns nor revitalization points what-so-ever for the entire length of the Trail! In Mt Carleton Park there are no services and the nearest town is 30 km away. You must arrive with all your essentials - camping gear, food, water and of course a full tank of gas.
In addition to the full-length hike, many shorter multi-day hikes are also available on the Mi’gmaq Trail. Among the most popular are treks going in either direction from Access Point L (Heath Steele Bridge) the approximate mid-point of the Mi’gmaq Trail and a 2-3 day outing between Access Point A (Bathurst) and Access Point E (Middle Landing).
Access Points and Paths: Positioned along the Mi’gmaq Trail are 21 Access Points and Access Paths used by day hikers, search and rescue teams and maintenance crews to reach different segments of the Trail. Each Access Point is identified by a letter - A through U. See the Table below. Along the Trail the Access Points are visible on 20 cm x 25 cm signs with their letter and a turtle. The Access Paths are marked with 10 cm x 13 cm turtle signs with a white background (ie. the turtle signs with clear acrylic backgrounds are reserved for the Mi’gmaq Trail only and turtle signs with white backgrounds are for the access paths only!)
The distance between Access Points on the Trail varies from 4 to 11 Km. It is extremely important for multi-day hikers to become familiar with the Access Points and their associated Paths before departing on a multi-day hike. Make sure you mark them on your maps and GPS device. Many hikers, due to blisters, weather, time constraints, etc are unable to complete their journey and these Access Points provide the best means to exit the trail, find a road and flag down a vehicle.
The easiest Points to exit are R, L and E where the Trail crosses a road with vehicle traffic. Hikers are forewarned that traffic at Points R and L on the Nepisiquit River Road (dirt) is often intermittent and that the wait for a lift may take hours. Point E is on a well traveled paved road – Route 360.
Exiting via Access Points T, S, Q, P, O, N, and M require wading across the Nepisiquit River which in the spring and fall can be prohibitively high and/or cold. Once across the river only short hikes (50 -500 meters) are necessary to reach the Nepisiquit River Road (dirt) but hikers exiting at T and S remain quite remote and should make their way to R where the Nepisiquit River Road junctions with the Portage Road (also dirt). To repeat, traffic on the Nepisiquit River Road can be intermittent and hikers should be prepared to wait for hours before being able to flag down a vehicle.
Departing the Mi’gmaq Trail via Access Points F, G, H, I, J and K involves hiking along access paths/logging roads 1.5 to 9 km to attain Taylor Brook Road itself a dirt road sparingly traveled (ie. prepare for hours of waiting). Exiting via Point D also involves crossing the Nepisiquit River but it is too deep to wade so, realistically, this access point is for emergency access point only and not a practical exit for hikers (unless they happen to be carrying an inflatable raft...).
Who Should participate in multi-day hikes on the Mi’gmaq Trail? Hiking the full length of the Mi’gmaq Trail should only be attempted by persons who are physically fit, have good wilderness navigation skills and are experienced in back-country travel and backpacking. Terrain on the Mi’gmaq Trail can be challenging especially on the 100 km section between Mt. Carleton Park and the Nepisiquit Dam. You will encounter rocky, steep and often sloped terrain as the trail hugs the river’s edge as much as possible. You will need to navigate through mud, bogs, fast flowing brooks and over unstable boulders, dead-fall and slick rocks. It is recommended that at least one person in your group have training in wilderness first aid. The area is remote and in case of accidents and injuries, it may take more than 24 hours for help to arrive once word has reached the Bathurst detachment of the RCMP (see section In Case of Emergency below).
Multi-day hiking on the Mi’gmaq Trail should not be attempted by novice hikers especially on the section between Mt. Carleton and the Nepisiquit Dam. Individuals who have previously injured their ankles, knees, back, or other joints may experience flare-ups while hiking the Mi’gmaq Trail. To avoid unnecessary problems, test your strength and endurance on shorter, less demanding backpacking trips prior to hiking the full length of the Mi’gmaq Trail. Hiking with a partner or in a small group is strongly recommended. When choosing a hiking group make sure you choose compatible companions and stay together!
It is highly recommended to be equipped with a GPS and a SPOT or INREACH device. Make sure you know how these devices function and have tested them prior to hiking the Mi’gmaq Trail. Cell phone coverage for most of the Trail is not available!
Hiking Direction: The Mi’gmaq Trail can be hiked in either direction although the most popular option appears to be from Mt. Carleton Park to Daley Point largely because of more secure and plentiful parking at the latter.
- Spring – mid June to early July
Before mid-June many of the Trail’s brooks (approximately 25) are impassible due to melting snow in the higher altitudes. After mid-June be aware of weather conditions which could impact water levels. Water in the brooks is glacial. Suggest carrying light sneakers for crossings to protect feet from cold and rocks and keep hiking boots dry (er). Frosts are possible. The black flies will make your trip miserable in June without adequate protection.
- Summer – early July to late August
For many hikers, summer’s warmer temperatures make this the preferred time to hike the Mi’gmaq Trail. Water levels usually drop significantly making fording brooks easier (light sneakers still strongly recommended). Expect some black-flies and mosquitoes.
- Fall – late August to early October
Cooler temperatures and fewer insects position the fall as an excellent choice for hiking the Mi’gmaq Trail. Expect wetter conditions and possible night frosts later in September and into October.
Reservations – At present reservations are not required to hike the Mi’gmaq Trail. If camping at Mt. Carleton Park is included in your plans please consult their website for availability and fees. (https://www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca/Products/Parks/MountCarletonProvincialPark.aspx)
Fees – At present there are no fees to hike the Mi’gmaq Trail but donations made via the “Home” page of the Trail’s website (https://www.migmaqtrail.ca/en) are greatly appreciated. Funds will be used to maintain and upgrade the Trail.
Registration - At present there is no registration to hike the Mi’gmaq Trail.
Shuttle Service: Hikers doing the full length of the Mi’gmaq Trail will need to arrange return transportation as the start and finish of this Trail are 146 kilometers apart (2.5 hours drive including 16 km inside Mt. Carleton Park to reach the start/end of the Trail). We recommend leaving your car at the finish and arranging for a lift to take you to the start of the route. Nepisiquit Adventures of Bathurst, NB can provide a shuttle service (506-252-3050, https://www.nepisiguitadventures.com/index).
GPS track files: A GPS track for the Mi’gmaq Trail is presently not available.
Maps: Maps of The Mi’gmaq Trail are best found on the Mi’gmaq Trail Website under the Maps tab. Click here. The trail is broken into 20 segments with a description of each and information on Access Points and interesting features.
Trip plan - Before you leave for your hike, prepare a trip plan and leave it with a responsible person (e.g., friend or family member). Detail where you are going, with whom, when you plan to return, and what to do if you do not return as planned. Check out adventuresmart.ca for advice on creating a trip plan and sample trip plans.
First Aid - The area is remote and in case of accidents and injuries, it may take more than 24 hours for help to arrive once authorities have been informed of your predicament (see In Case of Emergency below). You must be self-reliant. It is recommended that at least one person in the party have wilderness first aid training. Carry a first aid kit suitable for blisters, cuts, sprains, breaks and insect bites.